DrahtFest 2022 & VDD-GNA Annual Meeting.... That's a Wrap!
The Great Lakes Chapter hosted the first ever DrahtFest on May 26–28, 2022
at the Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, Michigan.
DrahtFest 2022 was a dog-centric celebration that combined our 52nd annual General Meeting with demonstrations, vendor booths and fun activities for GNA members, their families and the general public.
We had fabulous weather the entire weekend for the roughly 100 people who attended the event. Springtime in Northern Michigan certainly did not disappoint. The Shanty Creek Resort’s staff and facilities provided comfortable accommodations and friendly hospitality. Executive Committee members, Chapter Chairpeople and GNA members traveled from all parts of the country to attend.
Being a dog-centric event, the Great Lakes Chapter planning committee worked hard to find a dog friendly resort that would allow well-behaved dogs anywhere inside the facility and on the grounds. Our hard work paid off when we were pleasantly surprised to see just how many people brought their Drahts to the event. Over the entire weekend drahthaars lounged in the hallways and meeting rooms (always on leash!) as old friends and new friends chatted and enjoyed the weekend.
Here's a quick summary Friday and Saturday’s main activities:
Del Whitman seminar, "The Importance of Shotgun Fitting, Patterning & Field Maintenance for Effective Wing Shooting"
Kicking off Friday morning’s activities was a presentation given by world-renowned gunsmith, avid hunter, Orvis Pro Staff member, and Shooting Sportsman Magazine writer, Del Whitman.
Del’s broke down patterning, gun fitting and field maintenance. He gave an entertaining talk that appealed to both beginners as well as more advanced attendees. We all left the talk with a renewed interest in patterning our guns (the right way) and prepping for the upcoming season. Del and his family graciously stayed the entire weekend and he made himself available to answer any and all gun fitting and hunting questions. It was great to have such a knowledgeable and interesting gunsmith attend our event.
Anthony Williams presentation, "For the Love of the Beard"
Following lunch on Friday, GNA Member Anthony Williams presented a slideshow which covered Anthony's lifelong involvement with Drahthaars, teckels, falcons and pigeons.
Anthony gave a lively and emotional presentation which had everyone laughing. There were even some tearful moments as he recounted his amazing life story which started in Queens, New York, and took him across the country, into Canada out onto the West Coast pursuing his love of dogs and birds. Anthony and his wife also stayed the entire weekend and were an absolute pleasure and wealth of knowledge.
The Breed Certified Drahthaar Show
Friday’s presentations were followed by our Breed Certified Drahthaar Show outside on the terrace area just below the hotel. Ten dogs and their “get” were presented by Great Lakes Chapter Breed Warden Chris Wasserman.
The event presented a chance for everyone to interact with the dogs, ask questions and discuss future breeding and hunting plans.
Fortunately the weather once again cooperated and the hot sun was tempered by a white cloud cover which kept the heat down as a mild breeze blew from the lake below. Attendees spent several hours on the veranda after the official presentation of the dogs had concluded. It was a beautiful, lazy afternoon enjoying the majestic views high atop the facility (which also doubles as a ski resort during the wintertime).
Friday Evening Dinner at Short’s Brewery
Friday evening culminated with a trip downtown to nearby Bellaire, Michigan for dinner at the locally-famous Shorts Brewery. The back room of the brewery was reserved for an all-you-can eat pizza and salad night.
The evening provided an opportunity for some great fellowship between many members of different chapters and many old friends who haven’t seen eachother in a longwhile. The attendees also included some of the general public who had either been former drahthaar owners, or were looking to find their first hunting dog.
Continuing Education Seminar
We kicked off Saturday Morning with a Continuing Education Seminar hosted by Mark Heuer and Ron Figler. This was a special “CE” class because it concluded with the group moving outdoors for a special dog demonstration for judges and apprentices.
Great Lakes Chapter member and DrahtFest organizer Max Lenhard, chats with Purina Representative Terry Petro and GNA Business Manager Faith Wood near the merchandise table and coffee station.
Jonathan Wilkins Wild Game Cooking Demo & Hunting Stories from the Arkansas Delta
While the CE class was taking place, Special Guest Jonathan Wilkins of Black Duck Revival (who came all the way from Arkansas) entertained us with a wild game cooking class. Jonathan’s presentation started outside where he had set up a large caldron to demonstrate his wax duck plucking method.
GLC Member Max Lenhard prepping the ice bath for the wax plucking demo
After the ducks were plucked, we then went inside where he cooked a delicious Orange Pheasant and shared samples with the audience.
Wandering Pines Trading Post, Mitten Drahthaar Kennels and Glen Blackwood from the Ruffed Grouse Society all set up vendor booths in the main hallway outside the conference rooms. Attendees enjoyed Wandering Pine’s natural dog treats, talks with Will Good of Vom Mitten and information from Glen about the Ruffed Grouse Society.
Hunting Dog Portraits
All weekend long Great Lakes Chapter member Scott Broiser and photographer Adam Baudoux generously donated their time to photograph dozens of drahthaars (and even a few other breeds). Many attendees commemorated the weekend with a portrait of their dog and helped raise money to offset the cost of the event.
52nd VDD-GNA General Membership Meeting
Saturday afternoon culminated in the official Annual Meeting. Roughly all 100 attendees gathered in the main conference room to addend to the yearly business of the GNA. Mike Seckar, Ron Figler, Faith Wood and several other supporting members gave brief updates regarding their responsibilities. The meeting concluded with an open Q&A where several topics were discussed in a casual and respectful manner. Full minutes of the meeting may be made available.
Saturday early evening, Social Hour on the Patio
After the General Membership Meeting, everyone retired to their rooms to freshen up for a drink on the patio. Shanty Creek lit a fire pit and rolled out the portable bar. Members and their families enjoyed a beautiful early evening in the open air with the light hint of smoke in the air.
Saturday evening, Banquet Dinner & Awards Ceremony, Silent Auction and Gun Raffle Drawing
Chairman Mike Seckar said a few words to open our evening banquet. Great Lakes Chapter Chairperson Kathleen Gannon then presented awards. Member Anthony Williams said a beautiful and moving grace, then dinner was served.
Shanty Creek’s food was excellent. The meal was served buffet-style with plenty of options for all. Dessert was a special cherry pie made with local Michigan cherries, just coming into season. Purina generously provided gift bags complete with Pro Plan food and other accessories. Commemorative DrahtFest 2022 bottle openers were also provided in the bags by the Great Lakes Chapter. After dinner, Director of Judge Development, Mark Heuer, MC’d the live auction and read off the silent auction winners. The auctions raised several thousand dollars to help offset the cost of the event. We would like to extend a special thanks to Mark for doing such a great job helping with the auctions.
DrahtFest Gun Raffle Winners
Leading up to DrathFest, The Great Lakes Chapter held two gun raffles to raise money and offset the cost of the event. We partnered with Nick Larson of Upland Gun Company and the Bird Shot podcast to help promote the event. The Upland Gun company generously provided two exclusive hand-made Italian RFM guns at cost for the raffle.
What made these two gun raffles unique (and very successful!) was the fact that the winner had a choice of taking either the provided gun, or the equivalent retail price of that gun towards a custom-built RFM through the Upland Gun Company.
The first gun ticket drawn was for the 16 gauge RFM side-by-side. This gun was light, beautifully balanced and all hand made. The Upland Gun Company even included a certificate signed by each craftsman at RFM who worked building the gun in Northern Italy.
The lucky winner of the 16 gauge was ticket number 169 purchased by Cary Harris, a Great Plains Chapter member who lives in Alaska. Mark Heuer called Cary on the phone immediately after his ticket was drawn. Cary picked up and was being broadcast to the room over the microphone. He was actually headed out to go training and was delighted that he won. Cary opted to take the custom gun build and is now working directly with the Upland Gun Company to build his new gun.
The second gun raffle drawing was a beautiful, double barrel RFM Zeus 20 gauge in silver finish. This gun was light and had excellent wood and balance.
The lucky winner of the 20 gauge was ticket number 129, purchased by Big Rivers Chapter member Adam Augustine who lives in Columbia, MO. Adam was contacted and also decided to take the value of the gun towards a custom build with Upland Gun Company. Adam has been in touch with Nick and his custom gun is now being built.
With any luck, both winners will have their guns before hunting season this year. We would like to recognize the generosity of all the GNA members who purchased raffle tickets for these raffles to help support GNA and DrahtFest.
In 2021, Mike Seckar approached the Great Lakes Chapter and asked if we would make the 2022 Annual Meeting more of an event than it had been in the past. Not only did Mike want a bigger event, he also wanted us to focus on offsetting the costs and trying to break-even financially.
Borrowing a page from Pheasant Fest and other similar events, DrahtFest was born as a way of helping us promote the meeting.
After many months of planning, fundraising and countless conference calls, we were very happy with the outcome of the event. We are also happy to share that the fundraising efforts were successful. The money we raised paid for the entire event including travel costs and accommodations of all board members and special guests.
Mike and many Board Members shared good feedback with us and expressed how they enjoyed the events and productivity of the meetings in a laid back, casual environment.
We were also happy to hear that the Midwest North Chapter will continue the DrahtFest concept next year as they host the 53rd Annual Meeting. We look forward to attending!
View a digital version of the printed program
The weekend’s events were included in a beautifully designed printed program handed out to all attendees as they checked in. The program included a map of the conference building and grounds, letter from GLC Chairman Kathleen Gannon and ads from our platinum sponsors. You can view a digital version of the printed program here.
Thank you to our generous sponsors, partners & volunteers
Without the help of the many people who generously donated their time, money and expertise, we would not have been able to make the first-ever DrahtFest a success.